Lothaire Read online

Page 35

Page 35


  "Oh, my God, thats awful!" Ellie said, briefly clutching his brawny arm. "Why would they do those things to you?"

  "Theyre called the Order. They consider immortals miscreats-miscreations. Abominations and all. They plan to exterminate every last one of us. "

  "How did you get taken?"

  "Its the damnedest thing. Id just gone to pick up a girl to take to the movies, worried about nothing more than Eagle Scouts, my curfew-and maybe stealing a kiss from my date. " He winked at Ellie, and she felt like fanning herself. "Next thing I know, Im waking up in a holding tank with all these creatures. Thats when I flipped out. "

  "It must have been terrifying. "

  "Well, it wasnt a June picnic, thats for sure. And the cell! You cant imagine what its like to be caged for days on end. "

  Cant I? Your friend put me in the big house for five years.

  Rubber band snap. Snap!

  "I only got one torture session, not too bad, but Mr. Lothaire? They

  burned him until his skin charred away and you could see his bones.

  They starved him. He just laughed, messing with the humans minds and all. "

  Ellie could easily imagine him doing that.

  "When all the prisoners broke loose, he saved my life, repeatedly. And all the while, he was desperate to get off the island. We figured he had someone to get back to. Didnt know it was you!" Clearly recollecting some memory, Thad said, "Mr. Lothaire sure is wild for you. "

  Not for me.

  "So, what do you do, Ellie?" he asked.

  Well, previously, I held a position on death row, but lately Ive been a vampires plaything. Soon Ill be sacrificed so the Soul Reaper and the Enemy of Old can make babies.

  "What do I do?" Ellie caught Hags look of warning. In a feigned bubbly tone, she said, "Hey, you want a drink, Thad? I could use a drink. Ive gotta show you this chest. . . . "

  Three hours later, Ellie slurred to the chest, "Hos-say Kvervo tee-killer, please. "

  Somehow she, Thad, and Hag had already finished two buckets of Coronas.

  Thad had told her hed never tasted tequila. Ellie scarcely remembered it. One way to remedy that!

  "Lime. Salt. Another bucket of Coronas. And chips, thanks. "

  When Ellie dragged her score out to the deck, she found Thad buzzedly tightening a shutter hinge with a multipurpose pocket tool. So the Eagle Scout.

  She and Hag were in bathing suits, and hed removed his shirt. Though it was a cloudless day, Thad had no problem with the sun, and he had the tan to prove it. "Guess its my phantom half," hed explained with a shrug.

  Behind his back, Ellie mimicked a kitty-cat clawing him; Hag grinned into her beer.

  After popping open a round for the three of them, Ellie sank down on the lounge chair to watch sweat trickle along the rises and falls of Thads cut torso muscles.

  Am I feeling lust for him? Or just appreciating his amazing hotness?

  It occurred to her that he was exactly the type of boy shed always imagined herself with. Good-natured, handsome, considerate.

  So why was she so attracted to a deadly, forbidding bloodsucker like Lothaire?

  Because of mental trauma and sexual desperation?

  Or because of his brilliant mind and seductive touch? That molten gaze . . .

  Maybe she should test out whether she truly desired Lothaire or if she simply needed a male-any male.

  Maybe test this with Thad? Countless Coronas said this was the best-plan-ever.

  When her timer went off, Hag wobbled to her feet, pointing to the sky. "Potion!" she said, like she might say, "Eureka!" Then she veered off to the kitchen.

  Alone with Thad, Ellie said, "Thank you so much for bringing me back this morning. " Taking yet another swig of liquid courage, she stood, crossing over to him. "Youre my hero. "

  Still concentrating on his chore, he drawled, "Anytime, darlin. " Shed found out that he was a born-and-bred Texan. A long, tall, gorgeous drink of Texas . . .

  "You mind if I give you a hug in thanks?" Her voice had gone


  He turned toward her with a frown, scrubbing his palm over his chin.

  Before he could say anything, she laced her hands around his neck, her nails sifting through the hair curling at his nape.

  God, he smells incredible. The muscles of his chest flexed against her breasts, his damp skin so hot she could feel it through her top. "Or how about a thank-you kiss?" She stood on her toes.

  He blushed deeply. "Uh. Youre Mr. Lothaires female, which means youre taken. Really taken. And as for me, Im-"

  Ellie pressed her lips against his, tightening her embrace while he froze in shock.

  But his lips were firm, tasting of lime with a hint of salt. Nice. She kissed harder, and his lips finally parted on a breath.

  He smells, feels, and tastes wonderful.

  So wheres the lust?

  Dang it! Now she could admit what shed instinctively known. Without Lothaire, Ill never feel such passion again.

  She was just about to break away when Hag walked out. "Dark gods! What is this, Elizabeth?" she cried. "You want this boy dead?"

  Thad and Ellie both stumbled back mumbling apologies to Hag, to each other.

  The fey pointed Ellie toward the bathroom. "Go wash your face now!" To Thad, Hag said, "Sit. Youre next. "

  Inside the bathroom, Hag slammed the door behind Ellie. "Wash! Get his scent off you. "

  Ellie dutifully scrubbed her face. Okay, maybe the beers were wrong and that hadnt been the best idea. "Youre not going to tell Lothaire?"

  "This happened on my watch. I left two drunken, postpubescent beings alone. Lothaire can never know. Why in the gods names would you do this?"

  "I just . . . I had to know why I feel things so strongly with Lothaire. If it was me being straight out of prison, or if its him. "

  Hags disapproving mien softened. "No matter how ill-advised your experiment, I cant fault you for your curiosity. " She exhaled. "I can only imagine what you must be feeling. But did you at least make a determination?"

  "Its only Lothaire for me. Passion-wise, at least. " Nobodys fool.

  Then Ellie frowned. What if there was actually a future with a vampire like him? Somewhere-and somehow-to be found?

  To save herself, shed been seducing his body and his mind, with some success. But shed left his heart out of it.

  What if she set out to win the vampire-because she wanted to try a life with him?

  "Im gonna make Lothaire fall in love with me. I mean really in love. " Gonna put his heart in my sights. Trace, vampire, but you cant hide.

  "And what if he still sacrifices you for Saroya, for his crowns?" Hag asked. "All youll be doing is making it hurt worse for both of you. "

  Ellie would be guarding her own heart the whole time, determined not to fall for Lothaire. And once she made up her mind, she couldnt be moved from her decisions. "Then Ive got to make him love me more than two vampire kingdoms. "

  "And precisely how are you going to do that?"

  Ellie grinned. "Ill figure it out over more tequila. Now, let me go smooth things over with poor Thad. . . . "

  Chapter 39

  One love, one heart . . . lets get together and feel all right. . . . "

  When Lothaire traced back to Hags, reggae music and laughter sounded from her deck. A bottle popped open, glasses clinking.

  Though the potion base bubbled at the ready, the kitchen area was empty. Was Elizabeth outside? Had she regained full consciousness without this concoction?

  So much for his imaginings. Hag completing the potion, me administering it, Elizabeths stubborn gray gaze coming into focus, her arms wrapping around me in gratitude. . . .

  Ash vines clutched in his shaking fist, Lothaire rendered himself invisible, half-tracing to the opened patio doors to find Elizabeth, Hag, and Thaddeus doing tequila shooters on the deck.

  Relief washed over him as he surveyed the scene. Eliz